October 7 – October 13, 2019
Monday: Lima Bean and Barley Salad with Avocado and Citrus Dressing
Tuesday: Weeknight Marinara Sauce with Ground Beef and Bucatini
Wednesday: Bacon and Goat Cheese Frittata with Cherry Tomatoes and Dressed Arugula
Thursday: App of Goat Cheese and Endive /Adriatic Grilled Shrimp with Rice / Klondike
Friday: Birthday Dinner – Alta Via
Saturday: Celebratory dinner after 18 holes at the PFC, hosted by Tim: App of Goat Cheese with Crudités, Crackers, Njuda / Barbecued Chicken, Barbecue Baked Beans / Salad by Beez / Klondikes and Calvados
Sunday: Leftovers with Billy and Emily – Steelers win!
“The secret of good cooking is, first, having a love of it… If you’re convinced that cooking is drudgery, you’re never going to be good at it, and you might as well warm up something frozen.”
― James Beard
I do love to cook which, I would hope, should be obvious to those who follow this blog. I especially love to cook for family and friends so that old stories and new interests and general entertainment arises, as it were, from the meal. But the truth is, I even enjoy cooking for myself and Rusty the wonder dog when SWMBO* has, on rare occasions, abandoned us to our own shabby habits and lassitude.
- Quarterly reminder: SWMBO = She Who Must Be Obeyed = my lovely Barbara known to friends and family as ‘Beez’
Yet I know that many people not only don’t like to cook, but actively dislike the process. This is unfathomable to me. Then again, I’m the kind of person who enjoys taking out the garbage, cleaning the dishes and even making the bed – or anything I happen to be doing at the time, with the possible exception of voting for modern American politicians. You can mark this down to my sunny disposition or incipient dementia, but I think it comes from having lots of energy and enjoying life.* And life comes with chores and toothaches and doctor’s waiting rooms, as well as with joy, Mozart, rock music, caviar and extremely dry and cold martinis.
- Please note that having energy and enjoying life are not concessive but reciprocal qualities. Like the chicken or the egg, it is impossible to tell which comes first. Try taking out the garbage and doing it well and thoroughly and, I believe, you will find that in addition to a neat and clean house or apartment you have also acquired a spring in your step which you can then direct toward Mozart, making the bed, or cooking. [If you’re in a doctor’s office, there is no hope. In that situation you can only do what my mother used to counsel: “Offer it up.”]
But life does comes with moments when you have little time for much cooking, and moments when it simply wouldn’t be appropriate. Spending two hours in the middle of the day to cook lunch, for example, would not make sense even to someone who loves to cook.
This last week we had some very good meals and two great ones. (The great meals were on Thursday and Saturday, and due to the company, though the food wasn’t bad.) But we’ve shared the barbecued chicken and the bean recipe with you already. So, I thought that I might share a little sandwich philosophy and some of our favorites with you. And lest you think that this is a cheap cop-out for a cooking blog, I offer this observation from one of America’s great gourmands:
“Too few people understand a really good sandwich”
- James Beard
On Sundays, after Mass and the newspapers, Beez and I regularly indulge in overstuffed, luxurious BLTs. And we’ve shared that recipe with you already. See ‘The Holy BLT’ (September 23, 2019).
But during the working week, we put together some mighty fine sandwiches as well. And we always take the time to make sure that they are tasty, accompanied by a pickle or something complementary, and we usually sit down together to eat them, discuss life, watch the news, or just enjoy the woods from the screened-in porch.
I am not dogmatic on the subject of sandwiches. There is no one way to make a sandwich – no single set of ingredients (I believe that even peanut butter and jelly can be great.). But here are two of our favorites:
Turkey or Ham and Swiss Cheese with Iceberg Lettuce on Rye
You have a good deli near you, unless you’re leaving in Irkutsk. Find it and learn what their best ham or turkey is and buy it. They will also have Swiss Cheese. For the rye bread, go to your local baker or supermarket and find the best.
Now, lightly toast the bread, then lay it on a cooling rack to assemble the sandwich. Why a cooling rack? Because, if you put even lightly toasted bread directly onto a porcelain or ceramic plate, moisture will collect under it and you will have a soggy sandwich. Why toast it at all? Well, don’t, if you don’t want to. But a light toast lends a nice crunch and ensures that the bread won’t be gummy.
Now spread one or both pieces of bread with the condiment of your choice (in the case of Turkey, mayo for me and Dijon mustard for Beez). Grind a little pepper over the condiment. Then put down as many layers of turkey as you like (any more than 2 is too much for me). When tomatoes are good (August through early October for Pittsburgh) top the turkey with a slice sprinkled with kosher salt. Now add some crunchy iceberg lettuce.
Finally, top with the other slice of bread, cut in half, and put the sandwich on a plate with some pickle and/or some coleslaw (you can also substitute the coleslaw for the lettuce). Call your spouse, your dog, or a friend, sit down and enjoy lunch.
Tuna Salad with Swiss Cheese and Lettuce on Sourdough
Any canned or jarred tuna in olive oil* will work. You’ll want to mix it with a bit of mayonnaise and some diced celery and/or pickles and a bit of salt and pepper. For extra luxurious tuna salad, add some chopped black olives or chopped hard-boiled egg.
*Since canned or jarred tuna is cooked, it will dry out and lose some flavor if packed in water. Drain the oil and you will have a moister and more flavorful tuna.
Lightly toast the sourdough (see the Turkey sandwich recipe above for the tip about the cooling rack) and assemble as follows:
Spread the tuna salad on the bottom slice of toast. And spread it all the way to the edges: as Hilda has remarked about our local deli – ‘they put all of the meat in one lump in the center of the sandwich’ – and you should not do this since it gives an unbalanced sandwich with gummy bread on the outside and all the fixings in the center, liable to escape onto your shirt or trousers at any moment.
Top with a slice of Swiss Cheese. SWMBO objects to this but she is, on this rare occasion only, wrong. Top all of this with lettuce (I still like iceberg, but a peppery arugula will add some interest here).
Cut in half and serve as above (see Turkey and Swiss Cheese with Lettuce on Rye).
Note: Use any kind of pickles you like for the tuna salad – McClure’s Spicy Hot variety will add a spectacular snap to the mixture.